Four months from the day Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye was swept to sea, hundreds of people gathered to remember the teenager with the cheeky grin.
The 17-year-old Spotswood College student died in the Paritutu rock-climbing tragedy, which also claimed the lives of Brazilian Felipe Melo, 17, and Taranaki Outdoor Pursuits Centre instructor Bryce Jourdain, 42, on August 8.
The bodies of Stephen and Mr Jourdain have not been recovered.
Stephen's was the last of the three memorial services, and came after his family continued searching Taranaki's beaches for months.
At TSB Stadium on Saturday, Stephen's uncle Robert Gedye spoke on behalf of Stephen's parents, Bruce and Colleen, siblings Rhys, Hayley and Nicola, and extended family.
"It has been a time of hardship, sometimes extreme," he said.
That hardship was clearly shared by Stephen's friends and Spotswood College classmates, several of whom struggled to speak through tears as they shared their memories.
They said Stephen was a good and thoughtful friend who could always be counted on to listen and make them laugh when they were sad.
They told of days spent with him at school and doing the things he loved at the BMX track, underneath a basketball hoop, on the beach or in front of an Xbox.
One friend said Stephen could be like an old car.
"It could be a challenge to get him going, but when you did he was unstoppable."
Members of Stephen's whanau group (form class) and the school's 1st XV rugby team presented his family with one of the team's jerseys.
Spotswood College principal Mark Bowden said he and his students had been trying for weeks to find the words for Stephen and his family.
"We don't have them. What we do have is our hearts and our aroha for you."
Mayor Harry Duynhoven spoke of the sense of community that had been felt among those searching for the trio and supporting their families.
"Our community grieves, our district grieves as the family grieves."
The family of Mr Jourdain and host family of Felipe attended along with New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young and members of the police search and rescue teams.
The Rev Albie Martin conducted the memorial.
"We thank you Lord, you have given one back, but still you keep the other two. We are here simply because we want to bring it to an end," he said.
In almost every photo of Stephen shown on Saturday he grinned from ear to ear. Some included messages from his family.
One of them read: "We hope and pray every day that Stephen is found."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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